Tension mounts in Israel, Gaza, West Bank

TEL-AVIV – The Israeli press here reports that special atomic, biological and chemical (ABC) units of the Israeli army’s engineering corps were ordered to be on “first-grade stand-by” alert. Those news reports do not call the ABCs “weapons of mass destruction,” (WMD), but they are.

The published reports are based on “high security sources,” who report these ABC weapons would be activated as a response to an Iraqi assault on Israel with non-conventional weapons. The special units had been beefed-up lately with the most modern up-to-day equipment, including U.S. hardware that is able to identify within seconds 50 different chemical or biological agents in rockets fired in the direction of Israel.

The commander of these three special companies of the ABC defense regiment, Col. Eliezer, had been trained in the U.S. for such a job. He is also the officer who would determine whether such rockets are launched towards Israel and its army, and how to use Israel’s own ABC “deterrent factor.”

What might be the results for instance, if Col. Eliezer, as well trained and well equipped as he is, made a mistake or was told by his superiors to use the weapons of mass destruction? Errare humanum est, to err is human, the proverb says.

To deal with problems by using weapons of mass destruction, no matter under what circumstances, is no joke. It might well herald the end to the human species.

It is in this horrific war scenario, along with the occupation of Palestinian land, that a March 5 suicide bombing took place in Haifa. The suicide bomber, and 16 Israelis, most of them pupils and students, were killed and about 40 other civilians injured. The attack came after a respite of two months since a similar attack in Tel-Aviv on Jan. 5 this year. Despite the increase of the military and security forces along with the repression of Palestinians, suicide attacks have continued.

The Haifa suicide atrocity proved anew that the military campaign, which Prime Minister Sharon had escalated in the Palestinian territories months ago, is not only criminal, but does not increase security. The Gush Shalom peace bloc said in a statement that the public’s insecurity cannot be broken by military means, but only by means of negotiations with the official Palestinian leadership. The assassination of a Hamas official, Ibrahim Makatma, two days after the Haifa atrocity was a new targeted provocation perpetrated by the Sharon-Mofaz militarists, the statement added. The aim of this new assassination was to provoke more murderous attacks against Israelis, to be used as a pretext for far-reaching anti-Palestinian extermination and expulsion drives in the shadow of the coming U.S.-British aggression against Iraq, the statement warned.

The Palestinian leadership condemned the terrorist attack and said clandestine organizations and extremists carry out such actions. The Palestinian Authority’s Minister of Information Yasser Abed Rabbo reminded everyone of the heavy price Palestinians continue to pay from the terror of occupation. “Let us not forget that during the two-month spell since the last suicide attack in Tel-Aviv, at least 154 Palestinians, most of them unarmed civilians, among them children, old folks and pregnant women, had been killed by the Israeli occupation army.”

Rocket-firing tanks and helicopters, heavy armored earth moving equipment and live ammunition shooting soldiers and settlers, killing people and destroying houses and homes, turning thousands of Palestinians into homeless refugees as collective or tribal punishment and other horrid violations of human rights, have become daily and nightly occurrences in the Gaza Strip and some of the Palestinian West Bank cities.

Rabbo said the Haifa suicide attack might have been perpetrated on the eve of convening the Palestinian Legislative Council in order to undermine the efforts for a Palestinian reform of leadership.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org